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I don’t know if it’s just the documentary I recently watched on Tupperware, or my obsession with Nancy Drew books and pencil skirts, but my impending unemployment has me longing for a 50’s housewife existence that I never sought out before.  I want to contribute to my household by earning money here and there, saving tremendously with coupons and savings schemes, and taking care of myself physically and mentally through working out and learning stuff.  With all those demands, I’m not sure I’ll have time for a real job.

Perhaps this is just me making the best of the bad situation that is seeking employment in the non-profit sector during a recession, or me being overwhelmed by school/work/internship/commuting, but I long to spend time at home with my cat preparing delicious home-cooked meals and listening to the radio.  After I eat the delicious home-cooked meal, I’ll wash the dishes and do some light clean-up, then relax in my chair with a novel and a glass of red wine.

I imagine this delightful existence will last about one week before I’m bored out of my mind, binge-eating almonds and cheez-its, and wondering how the hell I’m going to pay rent–but it’s a nice little dream.

Anyone who has even gotten me talking about books will inevitably get an earful about how much I love Nancy Drew.  Recently, I read Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women who Created Her, and fed my obsession a little more.  The Nancy Drew books I read growing up, the ones with the bright yellow spines, are apparently not the books as originally written.

The book were ghostwritten, primarily by a woman named Mildred Wirt-Benson, and distributed by the Stratmeyer Syndicate– who were also responsible for the Hardy Boys and most juvenile serial novels of the day.  The first Nancy Drew book was written in the 1930s, and the series remained wildly popular through The Depression and World War II eventually reaching 56 volumes.

The Syndicate was hurt by The Depression, though, and many of the other serials fell off leaving Nancy as it’s real saving grace.  Eventually, the founder of the Syndicate died and passed the business on to his daughters, who acted as co-CEOs and wrote all the outlines for the stories.  One of the daughters, Harriet Adams, had a falling-out with the original publisher, Grosset and Dunlap, and eventually sold the rights of Nancy Drew  to Simon and Schuster publishers.  Adams also re-wrote all of the original 56 books.  She updated Nancy’s age, car, took out changed details to make the time period more generic, and took out a lot of very blatant racism.  These re-writes are the books with the blight yellow spines that I read and loved growing up.

As soon as I realized that what I had read was not the original Nancy Drew, I set about trying to get my hands on the original text.  Fortunately, Applewood Books recently re-issued the original books, and my local favorite used books store– Cellar Stories– also carries a few titles.

I’ve managed to amass a pretty respectable collection of both the originals and the re-writes, and have done extensive compare and contrast exercises, because I’m supercool.

The other day, I was at a library conference in Connecticut.  As I was just getting back to Providence, I got a phone call from my landlady informing me that a pipe had burst, there was water in my apartment, but she checked it out and it didn’t look like any of my stuff was damaged.  I came home to find a shallow puddle on the floor at the front of my house, and some water stains on the ceiling, really not too bad.  Then I noticed that the hat on the lowest shelf where I keep my Nancy Drew books was completely saturated.

misc-155I quickly checked the books, and saw that they were all completely fine.  This shelf is also where I keep the greatest item of kitsh I’ve ever acquired– my black last supper painting.

misc-156The only thing left to conclude, is that Black Jesus knows how much I love these books, and saved them for me– despite the racism contained within them.

misc-157There is simply no other way — that I can think of– to explain how the water came through the ceiling and soaked the hat on the bottom shelf (which is about 1.5 inches off the ground), and didn’t touch the books at all.

It’s a miracle.

  • Far too much reading is expected of me
  • I am not getting the reverence and respect I deserve from the 1st years
  • I should be doing the reading with this downtime that I have, but just cannot be bothered– that will most likely catch up with me very soon
  • I have three of my four classes (maybe it’s all four–she’s very plain)  with a girl who’s name I cannot remember, but who seems to regard me as some kind of kindred spirit.  I worry about this because she seems very, very angry
  • Mostly, I just want to read Nancy Drew books and other juvenile lit, then solve mysteries and have adventures
  • Unlike previous semesters, I don’t have any obvious weirdos in any of my classes.  This worries me and makes me feel like I must be getting weirder and therefore less able to discern.  I mean, a lot of the people are odd, but with the exception of angry girl, who is easy to ignore, no one really stands out.
  • I really have no idea how to write an annotated bibliography, which seems to be all one does in library school.

Nancy Drew is always on vacation.  I just started reading The Mystery at the Moss-Covered Mansion— the original one from the 1930’s complete with all of the racism that was later taken out in the 1960’s– and, yet again, Nancy, Bess, and George are in Nancy’s roadster on their way to a vacation destination.  I know that Nancy has been in charge of running the household since her mother died (in the early books, housekeeper Hannah Gruen is either less reliable, or just not mentioned), but does she really need to “get away” that often?

Also, in this book, Nancy has had a likeness of herself rendered in oils by a talented local painter.  She mentions how expensive it was, but how excited she is to give it to her father for his birthday.  In my mind, if you haven’t earned the money to pay for a gift, make something or do something where the effort rather than the product is the gift.

My feelings could be a result of my coming from a family that was never very good at the gift-giving (my brother and I would go to Target, each pick out a DVD of equal value, trade them, pay for them, and then trade back), but it seems like if you buy something for someone with money that they, not you, earned, it’s a bit pointless.  It also worries me that someday if I do get married, or share finances with someone, I’ll end up with a birthday present that I feel lukewarm about, and that ambivalence will be made all the worse because I technically paid for it.

Nancy does, kind of, work outside the home solving mysteries, but she is strictly an amateur and never takes money  for her work.  Her father, famous attorney Carson Drew, disapproves of her mystery solving, but indulges her as she is his only child.  Maybe he’d look more favorably upon it if he wasn’t always footing the bill for her adventures.

Perhaps my feelings are just jealousy toward Nancy.  I’ve never solved a mystery, at least, not a major one.  I’ve never tangled with baddies and been knocked unconscious by a swift blow to the head. My hair is a rather normal “brown” rather than “titian”. My high school chums and I spent our time drinking in fields and Canada rather than horseback riding at Red Gate Farm, or having luncheon at Lilac Inn.

The problem could be the difference in the eras that the two of us grew up in.  In Nancy’s time, people had to leave the house to accomplish most tasks, and while that sounds a bit tedious and time-consuming to me, I bet in puts you in the path of a lot of mysteries just waiting to be solved.  Nancy goes to the dressmaker’s and sees a mysterious figure duck around a corner and head for the docks!  I go to Old Navy where the music is too loud and the only mystery is how some of the girls in there really believe they can get away with a size that small.

I’ll continue to look for secret passages and hidden luggage compartments.  I’ll keep my eyes peeled on my daily walk to work, and maybe a case of mistaken identity, or a suspicious package will present itself and throw me into the world of mystery.  Of course, I’ll probably have to pass on it, and continue on to work.